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Miguelina and the mission

First slide

In one of my first trips back to the states after being assigned to the mission in Bánica, Dominican Republic, a friend of mine said to me, “A man matures with responsibility and suffering, and usually the two go hand in hand.” A few weeks later I was installed as pastor of San Francisco de Asís in Bánica, following a line of priests from our diocese that began with Father Gerry Creedon in 1991. 

This morning I went to Higuerito, one of the 17 villages the parish serves for the more than 5,000 people.   There is a young woman who lives there who broke her leg last year, and after five months it has still not healed. We brought Miguelina to the capital, where modern medical technology is available, and she received the diagnosis that she has bone cancer at the tender age of 15. There is no treatment for this form of cancer, her femur will never heal — barring a miracle — and her mother had to leave her job in order to care for Miguelina 24/7. 

However, as the Gospel reads, “This illness is for the glory of God.” And the glory of God is man fully alive — that is, when we love in an uncompromised fashion. In John 9, the apostles ask Our Lord who had sinned, the blind man or his parents. Christ responds neither, and that, “This illness is for the glory of God.”

I have been surprised how common it is in Bánica when someone sees weakness or disease to speculate what wrong that person has done, seeking to find blame. On the other hand, Christ reorients his disciples to seek the glory of God. God is love, so when we can transform the suspicion into support, care and concern for the spiritual and physical well-being of the people here, and Miguelina in this particular case, we are truly bringing the Gospel to life. 

When I heard the diagnosis that Miguelina received, I personally went to bring her and her mother back home, a rented house with a dirt floor sitting on top of a hill. Since then, I’ve tried to visit after Mass on Sunday and bring holy Communion and read the Gospel with her. Several youths in her community as well as some other communities have also taken to visiting Miguelina regularly to pray the rosary, read scripture with her and occasionally putt on a movie. (The parish owns a projector and some DVDs). Miguelina’s attitude has been luminous — I believe that her acceptance of this very painful disease has been a light for others, giving a tremendous example to those who visit with her. Some friends in the states donated money for housing, and with those funds, we were able to build a house for the family. Some locals have donated food and money at times to support the family. 

This story encapsulates our mission. This illness has been the occasion of a generous outpouring of love from people in the states and locally. Many of the youths have learned from their visits with Miguelina and her beautiful Christlike attitude. Indeed, this illness is for the glory of God, that many in Arlington and here in Bánica would be able to love selflessly. Thank you to all of those people in the diocese who have made this story and others possible.

Fr. Weber is pastor of San Francisco de Asís in Bánica, Dominican Republic. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019